Evanston, Ill. — After completing a short pass, quarterback Clayton Thorson saw two defenders approaching running back Justin Jackson and thought it was a mismatch — against the defense.
Jackson’s 23-yard reception on third-and-9 set up Thorson’s 1-yard touchdown run as Northwestern rallied from a sluggish first half for a 17-10 overtime victory over Iowa on Saturday.
“I saw two guys in the open field and I’m like, ‘Oh, they’ve got no chance,’ so I knew at that point we were getting the first down,” Thorson said. “And then, when we he kept pushing forward, ‘I’m like holy cow, we’re gonna score.’”
Jackson broke tackles and fell 1 yard short of the end zone.
“Man, tired legs,” he said jokingly. “Saw the end zone, it was right there. So close.”
Said coach Pat Fitzgerald: “A great player making a big-time play.”
Following Northwestern’s score, Iowa moved the ball to the 18-yard line, but Nate Stanley’s pass for Noah Fant on a fourth-and-3 play fell incomplete, ending the game.
“Can’t take my eyes off the ball and have to keep working so it won’t happen again,” said Fant, who had a 7-yard TD reception in the first half.
Thorson finished 21-of-36 for 192 yards. Jackson rushed for 93 yards rushing on 25 attempts and had five receptions for 38 yards. Jackson now has 4,732 career yards to pass Anthony Davis (Wisconsin) for eighth place on the Big Ten’s all-time rushing list.
Stanley was 19-of-33 for 223 yards with a touchdown and an interception and Akrum Wadley rushed for 90 yards on 26 carries to lead Iowa (4-3, 1-3).
“We just didn’t execute the way we did in the first half,” Stanley said. “We came out and made some mistakes we didn’t make in the first half.”
Iowa, which averaged 138.7 yards rushing before Saturday, was held to 89 yards.
“We’re a better team when we can run the ball efficiently,” coach Kirk Ferentz. “It’s always been that way. That is our plan, that’ll continue to be our plan. We’ll try to do a better job there.”
The Hawkeyes tied the score at 10 on kicker Miguel Recinos’ 48-yard field goal with 1:30 remaining in regulation. Iowa won the coin toss before overtime and decided to play defense first.
Northwestern, which trailed 7-0 at the half, tied the score on a 6-yard run by Jeremy Larkin in the third quarter and took a 10-7 lead midway through the fourth on a 30-yard field goal by Charlie Kuhbander.
“I thought today was just a great Big Ten defensive battle,” Fitzgerald said. “I think two really good defenses, two really physical football teams just went toe-to-toe.”
MORE BIG TEN
(At) Rutgers 14, Purdue 12: Gus Edwards scored on a 74-yard run on Rutgers’ second offensive play and Gio Rescigno threw a 35-yard touchdown pass in the second half as Rutgers posted consecutive Big Ten Conference wins for the first time since joining the league in 2014.
Rutgers (3-4, 2-2) forced two turnovers and limited Purdue (3-4, 1-3) to 4 of 19 on third- and fourth-down conversion attempts. The defense also came up with a defensive stop on the 2-point conversion after Anthony Mahoungou made a one-handed catch of a 10-yard touchdown pass by David Blough with 25 seconds to play to cut the lead to two points.
Blough rolled to his right on the game-tying attempt but the Scarlet Knights gave him no place to run and his pass sailed over the heads of his receivers.
The Scarlet Knights, who were 5-23 in conference play after a win over Illinois last week, never trailed. Edwards broke an ankle tackle near the left side of the line of scrimmage and went almost untouched the rest of the way for the Scarlet Knights’ longest run from scrimmage in a Big Ten game.
(At) No. 5 Wisconsin 38, Maryland 13: Jonathan Taylor ran for a touchdown and broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season, and Alex Hornibrook passed for two scores for Wisconsin.
Taylor finished with 126 yards on 22 carries.
Playing in his seventh contest at Wisconsin (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten), Taylor tied a major college football record shared by five other backs for fewest games by a freshman to get to 1,000 yards.
Hornibrook shook off an interception on his second attempt of the day, finishing 16 of 24 for 225 yards to balance the offense.
Maryland (3-4, 1-3), which has the league’s worst defense, could have picked up some early pointers from Wisconsin.
Under heavy pressure, Max Bortenschlager’s pass over the middle was intercepted by Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards and returned 54 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring with 12:18 left in the first quarter.
(At) Minnesota 24, Illinois 17: Kobe McCrary ran for 153 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Rodney Smith added 103 yards rushing for Minnesota.
Linebacker Jon Celestin returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth to provide the winning margin for Minnesota (4-3, 1-3). The Gophers ran for 292 yards as a team and held the Illini (2-5, 0-4) to 282 total yards.
Illinois sophomore quarterback Jeff George Jr. was 18-of-23 passing for 128 yards with a late touchdown pass to freshman receiver Ricky Smalling. Freshman running back Ra’Von Bonner had 18 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Minnesota opened the game with a 72-yard drive for a touchdown, with 64 of the yards coming on the ground. Demry Croft finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson.
Croft earned the starting job over senior Conor Rhoda after sparking Minnesota with three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Johnson in last week’s loss to No. 18 Michigan State. The sophomore quarterback was 5-of-15 passing for 47 yards on Saturday and threw two interceptions.